We were saddened to learn of the death Friday of Abigail Thernstrom. In announcing the sad news, Robert Doar, president of AEI, where Abigail was an adjunct scholar, described her as . . .
. . an elegant and powerful voice who chronicled the remarkable achievement — and the distance yet to go — in African Americans’ struggle for equal rights in the United States.
Her 1997 book “America in Black and White: One Nation, Indivisible,” written with her husband, historian Stephan Thernstrom, is a comprehensive assessment of racial change on par with Gunnar Myrdal’s classic, “An American Dilemma,” written in 1944.
Abigail was a friend of IWF, who served on our board in the early years. She participated in numerous IWF panels and advisory committees over the years. We will remember her for her decency, graciousness and her spirited refusal to be cowed by liberal orthodoxies.
We admired Abigail not only as a serious scholar but for fighting the good fight as a member of the United States Commission on Civil Rights, which had been dominated by a liberal clique for years.
Abigail was a mentor to our own Jennifer C. Braceras, who later joined her on the Civil Rights Commission. Says Braceras, “Abby was an incredible role model for me. She was brilliant and could have had countless career opportunities early on, but she chose to focus on raising her children — a job that she absolutely adored. When the children were older, she was able to commit more time to her work, and she was a force. She published her first book when she was close to 50 years old. I will never forget Abby’s wise words after I had my fourth child. She reminded me that life is long and that I shouldn’t worry about taking time off. ‘Stick a post-it note on your fridge that says: 50,’ she told me. ‘It will remind you that you have plenty of time to focus on your career later.’
“Abby was more than just a mentor: she was a leading intellect who influenced political thought across the ideological spectrum. But most importantly, she was a friend. We will miss her dearly.”
Roger Clegg remembered Abigail over at National Review:
Although Abby did not begin her life, education, and career in circles friendly to conservatism (to understate the matter), that’s where her intellectual honesty and her courage led her, and she became a star in the conservative firmament.
She and her husband Stephan were frequent coauthors, and in 2007 shared the prestigious Bradley Foundation Prize for their outstanding intellectual achievement. Their books together included America in Black and White: One Nation, Indivisible and No Excuses: Closing the Racial Gap in Learning. Her own works included Whose Votes Count?: Affirmative Action and Minority Voting Rights and Voting Rights — and Wrongs: The Elusive Quest for Racially Fair Elections.
Abby and Stephan also co-edited yet another book, Beyond the Color Line: New Perspectives on Race and Ethnicity in America. Their and her books were award-winning; their and her shorter pieces, in newspapers and journals of all sorts, are innumerable.
Abigail Thernstrom, RIP